More than six months after COVID-19 took hold in Canada, Air Canada President and CEO Calin Rovinescu is speaking out, taking to the carrier’s YouTube channel with an official update on where the airline is at as the pandemic continues on.
For one, Canada’s government-imposed quarantine measures and travel restrictions have been “nothing short of devastating, as everyone by now knows,” Rovinescu said in his video address, which was posted on Oct. 5th.
“The loss of jobs, reduction of our network and severe financial toll it has taken are weighing heavily on all of us,” said Rovinescu.
The CEO goes on to thank “the thousands of you” who wrote their local MP, urging the government to safely restart travel and tourism as governments elsewhere are doing.
Rovinescu was referring to the 312,000+ pro-travel messages Canadians reportedly sent to MPs last month, a campaign that was organized by the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC), which represents Canada's largest national and international passenger air carriers.
Rovinescu suggested that such efforts “may have had some effect,” noting how the government’s 2020 throne speech last month recognized that some industries have been impacted by COVID-19 more than others and promised support for travel and tourism.
“Although, we do not yet know what form that may take,” said Rovinescu.
While “making our voices heard is essential,” he said, “we know we cannot wait for our government to act.”
Air Canada is, instead, doing “everything imaginable” to create a pathway for the safe return of travel, he said.
“…Our best strategy is to rely on ourselves – to be strong financially, to be as bold and entrepreneurial as a start-up and flexible with a just-do-it mindset and culture,” said Rovinescu.
Rovinescu went on to list some of the industry-leading initiatives Air Canada has taken since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.
Air Canada was, for instance, one of the first to introduce mandatory mask-wearing and temperature checks for all passengers.
Back in May, Air Canada unveiled CleanCare+, a first-of-its-kind program that provides end-to-end health and safety measures to restore consumer confidence.
Then, on Sept 3rd, Air Canada, in partnership with McMaster HealthLabs and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, launched a groundbreaking study on the effectiveness of quarantine periods.
The month-long project, the largest of its kind, tested arriving international travellers at Toronto Pearson airport, on a volunteer basis, to gather data and assess the effectiveness of Canada’s 14-day quarantine policy and provide science-based evidence for equally-effective alternatives.
“This is key, because we know from direct experience and traveller surveys, that the mandatory 14-day quarantine period is a major disincentive to flying,” said Rovinescu.
The introduction of rapid COVID-19 testing at airports also ranks high on Air Canada’s agenda.
Last week, after Health Canada approved Canada’s first rapid antigen COVID-19 test with U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories – whose tests produces results in less than 20 minutes – Air Canada finalized its own deal with the company to introduce testing.
Additionally, Air Canada has refined its offerings to help revive travel, including the promise of complimentary COVID-19 insurance, the introduction of an Infinite Canada Flight Pass for domestic travel, and the revamping of its Aeroplan program, which will launch in November.
Air Canada also recently completed a $1.5 billion-dollar financing transaction, which Rovinescu called “a clear indication that North American capital markets continue to believe strongly in Air Canada and our future.”
Twists, turns & false starts
The CEO concluded by saying that Air Canada’s COVID-19 recovery efforts will not be a “straight line upwards,” but rather, a process that can expect some “twists, turns and false starts.”
“Let’s concentrate on the progress we are making and not let ourselves get distracted or discouraged,” said Rovinescu.
Sticking to key priorities and adapting quickly to changing realities is a “strategy that has worked well for us,” he said, and one that “will work for us far into the future.”
“We are now facing the new reality of COVID-19’s second wave, and while more uncertainty will result from it, I know the resilience and optimism we have shown over the last six months will get us through to the other side,” said Rovinescu.
The CEO concluded his address by quoting New York Times journalist and author Thomas Friedman, who famously once said:
“Pessimists are usually right and optimists are usually wrong but all the great changes have been accomplished by optimists.”
Watch Mr. Rovinescu’s address here.
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